First, and most obvious, is the old stand-by. You can pony up the $10,000 entry fee, and organizers will be more than happy to seat you at a table. 2005 WSOP Champion Joe Hachem did just that after placing 10th in the $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em tournament a few days earlier. The $25,850 he won was enough to cover his entry fee into the Main Event, and a few exhausting days of poker later, Hachem was on top of the world with a WSOP bracelet and $7.5 million to take home to his native Australia. Not a bad return on an investment.
Of course, even if you haven't won any smaller tournaments, but are wealthy enough to bankroll the $10,000 entry fee straight up, you'll still be welcome at the Rio. But few average poker fans have $10,000 stashed in a sock drawer for such frivolities, and chances are slim that you're one of them. Fear not, though, because there are plenty of other ways to get into the Main Event.
If you're in Las Vegas, the Rio offers a ton of satellite, super satellite, last chance satellite, and super last chance satellite to the max tournaments. Well, I made that one up but don't be surprised to see it on the tournament schedule next week anyway. These satellites are aimed at people like me or you, who probably couldn't afford the $10,000 buy-in - or, if you're me, even $1,500 or $2,000 to play in a smaller WSOP event, Hachem style - but who can definitely afford to put down $225 on a super satellite event.
Satellites are divided into single table, super, and mega varieties. Single table satellites run 24 hours a day and offer players the chance to win their entry by winning a one-table tournament that pays out in tournament buy-in chips. Super satellites are multiple-table tournaments that cost $225 with $200 re-buys for the first three levels, and whose prize pool money is converted into as many seats in the Main Event as possible. If there's a prize pool of $50,000 and you finish in the top five, you've won your seat. Super satellites run daily from June 26 to July 27.
Finally, mega satellites are run with the same structure as the super satellites, that is, that the prize money is converted into Main Event seats, except that the mega satellite tournaments cost $1,060 and do not offer re-buys. Again, these tournaments run daily until the day before the Main Event, and with one WSOP seat for every ten players, the odds are definitely reasonable.
Of course, not everyone is in Las Vegas, and with plane tickets costing what they do and flying such a hassle these days, most of us don't want to get up from our armchairs without good reason, and why should we? Chances are you play poker online, and chances are your favorite site can get you to the WSOP for cheap.
Last year PokerStars.com supplied 20% of the entrants to the Main Event, and when coupled with the contributions of other online poker sites, odds are that most of the 8,000 or so players who show up this year will have found their way to the Rio courtesy of some online tournament or another. Think of it as the Chris Moneymaker way, or better yet, the Greg Raymer method. Both Moneymaker and Raymer got their tickets to eventual poker glory through PokerStars.com, Moneymaker through a $39 satellite (they have those on the Internet, too), and Raymer through a $160 double shootout. Think about it - fame, fortune, and some snazzy new jewelry could be yours for less than the cost of dinner and a movie.
You say you're broke? Well, online turbo satellites start at $3, so you've still got options. Or try a freeroll at your favorite site if you've amassed enough time online. Still nothing? Barter something - if you start with a red paper clip you never know where you'll end up. And if you're really desperate for funds, take advantage of my super last chance satellite to the max offer - no promises, but if you streak through the Amazon Room at the Rio with a PokerListings.com logo tattooed on your backside, I might be convinced to buy a piece of you in the Main Event.
But no promises. You shouldn't need them. You can get to the World Series on your own, dignity and bank account intact.